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    News in Depth

    LB City Hall OK'd Vibration-Inducing Testing For Underground Oil In Neighborhoods Across Large Part of LB; We Post Color-Coded Map Showing Locations; City Hall Has Suspended Testing For Now


    (January 14, 2006) -- Stemming from Nov. 2004 LB City Council approval of a five year contract giving City Hall a financial stake in royalties if underground oil is found and extracted, LB city management approved an oil company plan to send trucks with vibration-inducing devices to create what city management called a temporary "very minor surface vibration" in the immediate vicinity of the trucks in hopes of pinpointing the oil.

    As previously reported by LBReport.com, city management placed the plan -- publicly labelled a "geophysical survey" -- on hold on or about Jan. 10 after incensed Wrigley homeowners (where the first tests began Jan. 8) told City Hall their homes experienced shaking longer and stronger than represented. At the January 10 City Council meeting, city management indicated it has suspended permits it granted for the testing...for now.

    But a color-coded map, obtained by LBReport.com from the City Clerk's office, indicates that by September 2005, city management planned to permit the procedure in neighborhoods spanning a large portion of LB within the area with a red border below.


    The map's color coding is explained in memo text below. For a larger and clearer pdf image of the map, click picture. Caveat: the pdf map is a large file (5.2 MB) and may require a longer than usual download.

    In November 2004, the Council entered into a royalty-sharing contract with Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc. [SHPI] via a "consent calendar" item just days before Thanksgiving. The item reported:

    "SHPI is proposing to lease approximately 1,100 acres of City mineral-fee property adjoining the Long Beach Oil Field to conduct the survey. The lease rate offered to the City is $15 per acre per year for a minimum of five years with no right to surface entry. Should the survey result in commercial production of mineral resources in the leased acreage, the City would receive a one-sixth royalty of gross revenues, which is the industry standard...The rental fee would generate approximately $15,000 per year to the Upland Oil Fund (SR 134) for the next five years. If mineral resources were commercially developed by SHPI, the Upland Oil Fund would realize unanticipated additional revenues through well permits, barrel tax, and royalties." The item drew no Council response although octogenarian Council communicator Thomas Murphy pulled it for discussion and read it aloud. [We failed to grasp its significance at the time].

    On September 13, 2005, management agendized an informational report describing the anticipated testing as "inducing an acoustic wave from near the surface of the earth and listening for the echoes from deeper parts of the earth (much like ultra-sound is used to create pictures of unborn babies in their mother's wombs)." Management said it "consists of a line of specialized vibrator trucks, each containing a base plate that sends sound waves deep into the earth. At each location marked in red on the attached map, three or four vibrator trucks will occupy the location for less than ten minutes at a time and then move on to the next location. While virtually all of the sound waves are directed deep into the earth, a very minor surface vibration is also generated in the immediate vicinity of the trucks. This vibration will dissipate to a "zero level" very quickly as it travels away from the trucks." [extended text of this memo is posted below] The item prompted neither Council nor public discussion (and also escaped our attention).

    Two days after the testing began, on January 10, 2006 Wrigley Association president Joan Greenwood told the LB City Council that her neighborhood was subject to subsidence and some homeowners reported damages to their property. Reached for comment on January 11 (after city management had revoked the testing permits), an official with the company's geophysical survey told LBReport.com the vibration-inducing trucks weren't capable of generating over about one one the Richter scale and the company had data to prove it. He said the company was awaiting an opportunity to discuss the matter with city management.

    On January 11, 2006, LB Energy/Oil Properties chief Chris Garner indicated to LBReport.com that the company had done some tweaking of its equipment that effectively reduced the vibration to more closely resemble (his words) a large truck starting up.

    Meanwhile, at the January 10 Signal Hill City Council meeting, two items related to the testing were pulled off the agenda. City Manager Ken Farfsing told the SH Council that Signal Hill Petroleum had called and asked to table [remove from the agenda] an item in which the company was scheduled to make a presentation on its "geophysical survey." SH city staff had separately agendized its own report on the survey...which was also removed at the request of city management.

    And SH City Manager Farfsing added publicly, "Signal Hill Petroleum indicated that they were going to go back to the drawing board and probably do a much smaller seismic study." .

    Parts of Lakewood are also indicated on the map...although it's unclear what the status of that city's stance on the testing is.

    Back at LB City Hall, city management has agendized a January 17 report to the Council listed as "Receive and file the presentation relating to Geophysical Survey by Signal Hill Petroleum -- Update by Christopher Garner." A city management memo accompanying the agenda item wasn't immediately available online.

    The September 2005 city management report to the City Council stated in salient part as follows:

    The exploration of oil and gas involves the evaluation of a variety of types of information...A 3D seismic survey is a method that allows the creation of images of the subsurface geology by inducing an acoustic wave from near the surface of the earth and listening for the echoes from deeper parts of the earth (much like ultra-sound is used to create pictures of unborn babies in their motherís wombs). The images from a 3D seismic survey can help geologists and engineers not only improve the selections of future oil well locations, but also obtain new and valuable information about fault lines.

    Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc. (SHPI) has contracted with Dawson Geophysical (Dawson) and Ameridian Technologies (Ameridian) to perform a 3D seismic survey through much of Long Beach, all of Signal Hill and in some parts of Lakewood (a map is attached) This survey will take approximately two months to complete. It will be conducted during daylight hours in residential areas and may also be conducted during the evening in non-residential areas. The survey will be coordinated with the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Marine - Bureau of Special Events and Filming to minimize any congestion impacts near high traffic areas.

    The method that will be used in obtaining the 3D seismic survey is used worldwide and was devised specifically for use in urban environments to minimize disturbance to the immediate surroundings. This testing can be performed on both soft grounds and on pavements. It consists of a line of specialized vibrator trucks, each containing a base plate that sends sound waves deep into the earth. At each location marked in red on the attached map, three or four vibrator trucks will occupy the location for less than ten minutes at a time and then move on to the next location. While virtually all of the sound waves are directed deep into the earth, a very minor surface vibration is also generated in the immediate vicinity of the trucks. This vibration will dissipate to a "zero level" very quickly as it travels away from the trucks. Dawson will monitor this ground vibration with portable seismograph units, which will confirm this temporary minor vibration is well within safe, acceptable limits. The monitoring will be performed at various distances from the trucks, and adjacent to any nearby buildings. A permanent record of these readings is archived for future reference. Along with the vibrator trucks, there will be cabling and sensors located in various areas (marked in blue on the attached map) to receive the information for later processing. The sensors are small devices, slightly larger than a lawn sprinkler. Both the sensors and the cables may stay at each location up to four weeks. The residences and businesses located close to the intended sites of the vibrator trucks will be contacted by Ameridian and offered a free inspection of their property before and after the seismic survey to verify that the survey has not impacted the existing infrastructure.

    Valuable information about the oil and gas potential within the City of Long Beach will be obtained from this survey and provided to the Department of Oil Properties, including information that has never before been available. Other beneficiaries to this work will include California State University, Long Beach; University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Southern California Earthquake Center, all who will use the information to explore potential problems with area earthquake faults. The individual mineral rights owners in Long Beach (including the City of Long Beach itself) and Signal Hill will also benefit.

    This item was reviewed by Deputy City Attorney Charles Parkin on August 19, 2005 and Budget Management Officer David Wodynski on August 26,2005.

    TIMING CONSIDERATIONS

    City Council action on this matter is not time critical.

    FISCAL IMPACT

    The City Council approved an agreement between SHPI and the City on November 23, 2004, for leasing of the Cityís mineral interests near and under the Airport. SHPI will pay the City to hold the mineral leases for five years and during that time the 3D seismic survey will be conducted and processed with hopes of new oil and gas prospects being found and developed. The lease fee will generate approximately $15,000 per year to the Upland Oil Fund (SR 134) through the end of the lease term. If mineral resources are commercially developed by SHPI, the Upland Oil Fund would realize unanticipated additional revenues through royalties and the General Fund could realize unanticipated additional revenues through barrel taxes and well permit fees.

    SUGGESTED ACTION:

    Approve recommendation.

    Respectfully submitted,

    CHRISTOPHER J. GARNER
    DIRECTOR OF LONG BEACH ENERGY & OIL PROPERTIES

    APPROVED:

    GERALD R. MILLER
    CITY MANAGER


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